The office is now a therapy room and meditation space and the hallway is an office. The desk has been butchered to fit, and there’s a new view. There were no phone calls, or toilet flushes. The dog didn’t decide to skit around in the kitchen with her new toy. The coffee grinder was not used and the kettle had already boiled. The only sound was the gentle clicking of the Apple keyboard, and my breathing and an occasional morning cough. The new solid pine doors separated us and our respective mornings, but your mindfulness was interrupted by the consciousness of another being in the house, and mine by the knowledge that you’re now working at home too. The sounds of traffic and distant bells, or Cork’s buzz, such as it is on a Friday morning, were removed, and the residual silence screamed. It will take us both time to adjust.
Your peace, albeit interrupted, was counterbalanced by my apprehension, as thoughts about the final preparations for Monday trundled through my mind. The coffee is strong and fresh at least. 23 American potters will be here for four days, perhaps sharing over 900 years of combined experience, and they will be taught, or not, fed and watered, entertained, for the week. This will need to be military in its planning, but not in its presentation. Why are they here? They’ve paid well for a two week tour of Ireland, concentrating on visits to craft shops, to galleries and castles, museums and attractions, but they’ve chosen the trip for the workshops. They want to learn from their Irish colleagues, and to see some new techniques, but they’re also here to soak up the atmosphere, partake of the craic, feel the love we have of our craft. Yes, it is, again, a performance as much as a series of workshops. They want a relationship with the tutors and the place, its history seeping into them. Last year, the group of 16, when surveyed about their trip, commented on the cleanliness, or lack of it, here. My first reaction was irritation: it’s a working pottery for God’s sake! But that criticism had its effect, and the whole place has been cleaned, the table tops replaced, the toilets polished… And now it’s the small things – the food allergy notified, the projector focused, the potters’ knives washed, the fridge stocked with ‘sodas’, and the weather watched for the outdoor day.
And why am I doing it? Well, I could be crass about the money it makes, or I could make up something about engaging with like-minded people from across the pond, but in fact, it is part of the steam engine that shunts up and down a track, whose boiler was stoked several years ago and still has a head of steam, collecting and delivering loads. It is an extension of the overpowering summer during which, in three months, 550 people took classes and courses here. And it is another welcome distraction from the looming editing task for the novel, and the winter ahead. It’s is a function. It centres me to know I have my year punctuated with jobs that must be done. It fills the silence of my Friday morning.